Living on Bitcoin in Europe: From Amsterdam to Prague, No Cash Required


Bitcoin Journal provided reporter Colin Harper with a fistful of sats and set him free in Europe. That is the primary installment of his “Living on Bitcoin in Europe” collection. Proceed studying his adventures over the approaching days.

Amsterdam and the 40-Hour Day

I landed in Brussels with a rucksack full of the same old miscellany: a 30-gallon mountain climbing pack of garments and necessities, three.5 million sats, a stomach stuffed with airline meals and a structure that was shrugging off the sluggish comedown of clonazepam and Ambien.

That is how the primary installment of my European “Living on Bitcoin” collection started: in the basement prepare station of the Brussels airport at eight:43 a.m. after a redeye. The modest pharmaceutical cocktail I took throughout takeoff from Atlanta was supposed to drown out the eight-hour flight with a bout of blissful, transatlantic sleep. Solely it didn’t pan out that approach and I used to be awake for the entire journey.

As I waited for the northbound prepare to Amsterdam, I used to be additionally ready for jet lag to meet up with me. For the rest of the day although, I might have to energy although for 16 hours, someplace close to 20 kilometers of strolling, just a few liters of beer and a midnight prepare experience earlier than I may give up to sleep — all paid for with bitcoin.

My first day residing on bitcoin was enjoyable as hell. However rattling if it wasn’t exhausting too.

A canal in Amsterdam close to the Magere Brug cafe

Getting to Amsterdam

The prepare experience from Brussels to Amsterdam was about two and a half hours lengthy. I prevented sleeping. It might have been sick suggested to snooze this early into my journey anyway, however I used to be additionally surprisingly wired from the flight and the prospect of the journey forward.

I used to be additionally stoked to be in Europe with the specific goal of subsisting solely on bitcoin. I had achieved this in San Francisco again in January 2019, and the outcome was without delay fascinating and underwhelming. Not one of the retailers that used to settle for bitcoin (or had been marketed as such on-line) did anymore, save just a few. I survived the week largely thanks to bitcoin-to-gift-card companies like Bitrefill. This time, I’m hoping to largely keep away from these workarounds as a result of the cities on my itinerary (Amsterdam, Arnhem, Berlin and Prague) are all supposed to be the premier bitcoin hotspots in Europe.

With the Netherlands (or, because the Dutch appear to want, Holland) as my first cease, I used to be stopping in Amsterdam for my first day residing on bitcoin. Then I might head to Arnhem, a smaller metropolis in the southeast of Holland. Arnhem is meant to be the Bitcoin metropolis, not simply in Holland, however in Europe — hell, in the world. It definitely regarded like that on-line and from all I had heard from fellow Bitcoin Journal journalist Aaron van Wirdum and others.

Earlier than I bought there although, I wished to move via Amsterdam for a meet-up hosted by Aaron and his buddies Boris and Jan-Willem for “De Bitcoin Present,” their Dutch language podcast. There have been additionally supposedly just a few locations I may spend my sats, in accordance to my rudimentary analysis and what Patrick van der Meijde, the founding father of BitKassa and the first purpose so many locations in Arnhem settle for bitcoin, had advised me.

Disembarking at Amsterdam Centraal, I went straight to a motorbike rental store that supposedly accepted bitcoin. In San Francisco, transportation was simply attained with Uber credit score bought on Bitrefill. However in Amsterdam, Uber isn’t out there. In addition to, I might fairly spend bitcoin instantly with a service provider — plus, a motorbike would give me the borrowed sense of authenticity that I used to be, like, completely residing because the Dutch do. 

Amsterdam is a giant metropolis. If I used to be going to trek it comfortably, lumbering as I used to be with 40 kilos of substances, a motorbike was nearly required, so I used to be over the moon to discover that Starbikes Rental was marketed on Google as accepting bitcoin.

All of the prepping I had achieved to this level urged that transportation was going to be the toughest egg to crack on this journey. My work buddy Christian (whom I relied on closely in San Francisco) had to buy the prepare ticket from Brussels to Amsterdam for me, a gesture I repaid in bitcoin. If I may safe a motorbike (maybe even an inexpensive, secondhand one which I may take with me from metropolis to metropolis) then I might not less than have my transportation lined throughout the cities themselves. 

Biking on Bitcoin? Not As we speak, Bud

However San Francisco had additionally taught me to mood my expectations and by no means to belief Google as to what locations settle for bitcoin. Certain sufficient, upon reaching Starbikes, my hopes for utilizing Amsterdam’s unbelievable biking infrastructure had been dashed.

“Hallo!” a wiry, red-haired, middle-aged ladies greeted me as I entered the store, a narrowish however lengthy joint with bikes cluttered in stacks and racks.

“Howdy, do you, by probability, nonetheless take bitcoin?”

“Bitcoin? Oh, no, not anymore, yeah.”

“Do you bear in mind which cost processor you used?” I requested, recalling that a lot of the locations that accepted bitcoin in 2013-14 in San Francisco had relied on a now-defunct PoS software program. This query confused her.

“Um, I’m not too positive. It was the orange one,” she mentioned, however I think she was referring to the Bitcoin emblem itself. I thanked her and left the store.

It’s taking place once more, I assumed. Not one of the locations are going to settle for bitcoin. And worse, I’ll have to trek via Amsterdam on foot. 

I attempted just a few different bike retailers on the off probability that one of many workers had a pockets and I may persuade them to take bitcoin for a motorbike — a Hail Mary that very a lot fell brief, although one man knew sufficient about bitcoin to have an interest in the experiment. 

With no selection however to go on foot, I humped it two kilometers to the Magere Brug cafe (so named for the landmark it overlooks: a drawbridge that actually interprets to “little bridge” as a result of the 1691 unique was terribly slender). 

As I entered, a younger lady dressed all in black and rocking cat eyeliner greeted me exterior whereas speaking to the ostensible proprietor of the place. Her complexion was stark towards the midnight black of her turtleneck and he or she comported herself in a charmingly clumsy type of approach.

First Contact: Shopping for Lunch With Bitcoin

First issues first, I requested her if I actually may pay in bitcoin, and sure, she mentioned I may.

Thrilled, I ordered the membership sandwich at her suggestion. Two towering double-deckers of bread, cheese, turkey, ham, cucumbers, lettuce and what I assume was hollandaise sauce got here out on a plate with tortilla chips. 

The primary and solely membership sandwich I’ve ever bought, courtesy of the Magere Brug cafe.

The spectacular sandwich appeared fittingly grand for what I thought of a big enchancment over my first residing on bitcoin expertise: In San Francisco, it took me 4 days to spend bitcoin in a storefront; in Europe, I had achieved it inside simply two hours of arriving at my first vacation spot.

I wolfed down the membership and went up to the bar to pay. The PoS was courtesy of BitKassa, the identical cost processor that runs the entire of Arnhem’s bitcoin-accepting venues (apparently, Patrick’s affect was spreading). You may pay both via the Lightning Community or on-chain; I opted for on-chain as a result of I used to be saving my LN sats for the Lightning Convention in Berlin.

The cost, even on-chain, was fairly quick. It most likely took 15 seconds from the time I scanned the QR code with my Samourai pockets for it to be “confirmed” by BitKassa (the reason is that the cost goes straight to Patrick’s node so, as soon as it hits his mempool, it accepts the cost on the PoS).

“It Is the Future, so I Have to Study Someday”

I requested cat-eyeliner woman if she felt like all of this was foolish and what her normal impression in regards to the setup was. I had insinuated that it was most likely a ache, however she noticed the entire thing as a possibility to work together with an rising (and vital) expertise.

“It’s the future, so I’ve to be taught someday,” she responded with a type of awkward affability. 

She advised me that she’s really processed bitcoin gross sales very often as a result of the staff from Common Bytes, an Amsterdam bitcoin firm, comes in repeatedly. This gave me the sense that Dutch (and maybe European) bitcoiners had a conviction for the orange coin that wasn’t fairly the identical because it was again residence. On the very least, the idea of a round financial system was handled extra favorably over right here, an impression that was bolstered all through the journey.

I thanked the waitress and left the cafe. De Bitcoin Present meetup was an unlucky six kilometers away, throughout the river, on the north aspect of Amsterdam. At this level, jet lag was starting to take maintain on me with its soporific grip. My limbs had been heavy, my head was clouded and (although I didn’t comprehend it on the time) it might be one other 10 hours earlier than I may hit the sack. 

I had no selection however to schlep my baggage for the 30-minute stroll to the free ferry to cross the channel to the north aspect of the town. As luck would have it, I managed to take the unsuitable ferry, extending my journey by one other 40 minutes. By the tip of the stroll, I used to be trundling together with a limp — passersby most likely took me for a drifter. 

However irrespective of, as a result of I’d lastly reached Blast Galaxy, the “beercade” that was internet hosting the meetup. Simply in time, as my telephone was on its final leg of battery.

The meetup didn’t begin till 6:00 p.m. and I used to be about two hours early, however a bald man was good sufficient to let me in to chill out earlier than the social gathering started. He runs the joint together with a few of his buddies, fixing and flipping arcade video games, holding these he likes to entertain Blast Galaxy’s clientele. 

A bigger-than-life Sonic the Hedgehog effigy greeted me as I got here in. Varied online game paraphernalia and iconography littered the partitions and ground house. The lobby emptied right into a wide-open warehouse space with a bar on the left-hand aspect, rows of picnic tables in the center, couches and tables to the correct and a treasure trove of arcade video games that occupied half of the out there house. They’d sufficient video games for 5 mid-sized arcades, from Pac Man to Galaga to shooters like Time Disaster three.

Bitcoiners keen to use Lightning had been greeted by this lightning-fast hedgehog of online game fame.

I took a seat on a sofa and charged my telephone. The lengthy slog right here had left me wasted drained. A boring throb pulsed via my physique and my actions felt viscous, like transferring via pudding.

Assembly Up on the Meetup

“Who’s that man?” Aaron shouted at me from throughout the room, rescuing me from a untimely sleep. He had simply been upstairs recording De Bitcoin Present.

We clasped palms; it was good to see him. Regardless that we labored midway the world over and had solely met on two different events, we’ve maintained a rapport I discover is sort of frequent in Bitcoin’s internationally distributed neighborhood.

He took me upstairs to De Bitcoin Present’s studio, which is owned by Boris. As soon as upon a time, Aaron handed the Lightning torch to Boris, a seasoned online game journalist in Holland who additionally does bitcoin stuff (together with working his personal online game present for Dutch TV).

I advised them how my experiment had already been extra profitable in the primary few hours in Holland than in the primary few days of San Francisco. Once I requested why the Dutch bitcoin scene is so dedicated (and I hadn’t even seen how dedicated but), they chalked it up to a tradition that has, in accordance to them, all the time been fairly technically inclined — however in a gritty, down-with-the-state, cypherpunk type of approach not just like the buttoned-up, technocratic inclinations of Silicon Valley.

Tech-oriented certainly. The meetup was a wild success. Over 50 bitcoiners from throughout Holland (and even some from Belgium, I’m advised) converged on Blast Galaxy all through the night time. There was a 5 euro cowl (bitcoin solely) and a bar that accepted fiat or bitcoin, with all bitcoin processed via BitKassa. Aaron lined the primary two rounds; I lined the third and had the privilege of paying in Lightning.

I spent the night time bouncing round, socializing and competing with an nameless patron for the excessive rating on Pac Man (they finally received). I met a person, one of many ideas of Common Bytes, who had implanted his personal keys into his hand — probably the most (fairly actually) steel gesture of cypherpunk self-reliance I’ve ever seen. (He’s taken “Not your keys, not your cash!” to a brand new, subcutaneous degree). 

On the peak hours, the room was a steaming pit of booze, bitcoin and masculinity (nearly everybody there was male), humid with sweltering physique mass and mental stimulation. An industrial fan on the entrance entrance wrestled with the musk and warmth.

I had in some way damaged via the torpor of being up almost 40 hours at this level, however I knew the second wind wouldn’t final lengthy. Round 10:00 p.m., I grabbed Patrick from BitKassa, who had kindly agreed to purchase me a prepare move to Arnhem. After one other two and a half hours of strolling, prepare driving and taxi cabbing (paid ahead by Patrick, to be remunerated in satoshis later), I discovered myself on the footsteps of the BnB Molenbeke and wished Patrick a great night time. 

Reaching my room after a quick tour of the home and a rundown of its guidelines, I collapsed on my mattress and, exhausted in the purest sense of the phrase, I fell instantly into an unshakeable sleep.

The submit Living on Bitcoin in Europe: From Amsterdam to Prague, No Cash Required appeared first on Bitcoin Journal.

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